Albania is well known for its international trafficking of women but less famous for being the country were one third of women are beaten by their husbands. According to a report published in October 2011 by the Immigration and refugee Board of Canada (IRBC), of the 2,590 women who participated in the survey:
- 50.6 percent had experienced emotional abuse.
- 39.1 percent had experienced psychological abuse.
- 31.2 percent had experienced physical violence.
- 12.7 percent had experienced sexual violence.
This poll shows that one woman in two is affected by this curse and one woman in three is physically assaulted. And these numbers won’t decrease in the next few months because the Albanian legislation and judicial institutions are not strict enough.
The kanun, traditional Albanian law
According to Kanun rules, a man has the right to beat and publicly humiliate his wife if she disobeys her husband. The man is allowed to cut his wife’s hair, strip her nude, expel her from the house and drive her with a whip through the village”
But tradition is going a little further, giving to the husband the right of life and death for his wife:
The Kanun specifies that a man may kill his wife for two reasons: infidelity and betrayal of hospitality. It forbids
women from speaking with guests who visit the house or entering the men’s room without being asked by her husband.”
Of course, this rule is very rarely if ever used. But it helps to understand where the Albanian society is coming from: a country with a strong patriarchal tradition based on male domination over women (like most European countries).
Laws do exist, in theory
After the communist dictatorship, Albania had to rebuild its whole legal arsenal. In 1992, the first law to protect women appeared but it only targeted sexual assault. We have to wait until 2007 to see the first law about domestic violence. After that 20 000 citizens from a dozen of Albanian associations signed a petition, the parliament had to pass the “Law on Measures against Violence In Family Relations“. A first measure thanks to the population.
Yet, according to the IRBC survey, only 6% of women denounce their abusers to a social or judicial institution. The cause? The lack of trust in justice that the Albanian people have. Thus women are not encouraged to go to the police.
In addition, the law is far for being complete. It does not recognize, for example, rape between husband and wife, battering and other violent acts, murdering, wounding and bullying. So, what is the definition of “domestic violence” if it does not include all of these? According to the law article:
“Violence” is any act or omission of one person against another, resulting in violation of the physical, moral, psychological, sexual, social and economic integrity.”
A large definition completed by the one on “domestic violence”:
“Domestic violence” is any act of violence pursuant to point one of this one article committed between persons who are or used to be in a family relation.”
So large that the law does not include half of the domestic violence acts…
Nonetheless, according to the penal law (still in theory), in cases of “serious intentional injury,” the criminal code calls for three to ten years imprisonment, while in cases of “non-serious intentional injury,” the accused does not risk a lot: between a fine and two years imprisonment.
Incompetences from police and judges?
So, it was only in 2007 that domestic violence emerged in the public domain. The following year, the prime minister Sali Berisha decided that 2008 was the year “against domestic violence”.
During this year, police got training sessions and a (in depth?) learning about the new law and its application. It seems that after these months of education, every station now welcomes a specific structure to frame complaints of domestic violence. However, according to the IRBC report, police neglect women who come to sue their husbands because of excessive use of the civil code and not the criminal code.
And what is up on the Justice side? No current statistics are available on the number of domestic violence incidents reported to the Court or on the results of trials…
Nevertheless, the police and judicial world remain a small world of men. They do not leave any space for women and their complaints. It also explains the dysfunction of the current law.
Go further: NATIONAL STRATEGY ON GENDER EQUALITY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ( 2010 report, critiques on the law by the minister of Labor, social affairs and equal opportunity).
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